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By David Morse

In the eighteenth century "virtue" used to be a observe to conjure with. It referred to as to brain heroic predecessors from the Roman Republic reminiscent of Cato and Brutus and invoked features of non-public integrity, selflessness, and a priority for the typical sturdy, which, even though urgently wanted, appeared desperately missing, either within the ruthless celebration struggles of the age of Anne and to that end within the all pervading political corruption of the Walpole management. while the longed-for political savior did not materialize it was once more and more felt that if advantage existed in any respect then it will were searched for one of the reduce orders of society in any other case in provincial components, the place easier and nobler values may possibly nonetheless succeed. yet with the arrival of the French revolution and Romanticism, advantage started to lose its robust resonances--it now appeared naive and simplistic, all too able to deny either the complexities of human nature and the potential for decision through exterior cultural forces.

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Extra resources for The Age of Virtue: British Culture from the Restoration to Romanticism

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They are given the opportunity of doing so when they rescue Dorinda and Mrs Sullen, to whom they have become attracted, but characteristically confess. No one will be gulled. Mrs Sullen is freed from an unhappy marriage. Aimwell learns that he has inherited his father's fortune; plotting has become a completely harmless activity. For Farquahar the age of cynicism about human nature was past. In the prologue to The Beaux Strategem he writes: When strife disturbs, or sloth corrupts an age, Keen satire is the business of the stage.

As Lord Foppington says in The Careless Husband: a fine Woman when she's married makes as ridiculous a Figure, as a beaten General marching out of a Garrison. Nevertheless Cibber's happy ending was so obviously contrived that by comparison Vanbrugh's two plays, The Relapse and The Provok'd Wife, which appeared in the following year (the first as a deliberate sequel to Love's Last Shift), seem more satisfactory if only because they make no real attempt to resolve the situation. In each case Vanbrugh presents an unhappy marriage in a more or less serious main plot but leaves it dangling as a kind of problem play by foregrounding a comic sub-plot in the final scenes.

As Shaftesbury rallied Protestant England against the dark machinations of Rome it was suddenly crystal clear that the very same political and ideological forces that had led to the execution of Charles I and which had seemingly been defeated for good were actually still very much in evidence. It was not just James's succession to the throne that was at stake but the very authority of the reigning king. In such a divided and highly politicised world even a loyal supporter of the King and the Duke of York, which Dryden was, could no longer expect to speak of virtue even if he believed in it - which he did - since it would simply be exposed as a coded political discourse rather than as a language of morality.

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